Dungeon Master Meets Namaste in New Role-Playing Yoga

Role-playing devotees call new concept 'ridiculous'

ByABC News
January 30, 2014, 2:19 PM

Jan. 30, 2014— -- If nerds who play role-playing games represent a low form of intellectual life and yoga practitioners seek the highest level of consciousness, what happens when the two converge in a Namaste moment?

Downward-facing dungeon master?

Artist Scott Wayne Indiana has created Dungeons & Dragons Yoga, a class in Brooklyn that he says may be catching on in Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas.

In the fantasy role-playing game known as Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, players take on different fictional characters like paladins, wizards, and half-elf rangers. One player is the "dungeon master" or leader of the game, and the team works together to stop the forces of evil.

But in Indiana's creation, the dungeon master stands in front of a yoga class and narrates an action scenario. Yoga instructor Sarah Dahnke then directs the group, all in spandex and on yoga mats, to do specific poses that she has created for the game.

In one recent game, the players were asked by Indiana to imagine they were one character -- "a roguish rugged individual who has run afoul of the local law" – and to envision delivering a package to an ancient wooded temple.

A normal yoga pose like "warrior pose" or "cobra" might be a new move called "sword one" or "dice rolling" in the D&D version of the practice.

Hilaria Baldwin does yoga while flying first class.

The 10-sided die, or 10D, as it is known in the nerd game, sits beside each yoga mat. Typically, the roll of the dice helps the dungeon master determine complex games moves – or what each character will do next.

Indiana told ABCNews.com he has only a "loose interest" in D&D, but is a devotee of yoga.

"I am definitely not making fun of them and I have a lot of friends who play Dungeons and Dragons," said Indiana, 40, who creates exhibits at the New York Hall of Science. "I understand the stereotypes."

"When you do yoga, it's usually a meditative experience and you are very focused," said Indiana, "So it's not much of a stretch to substitute what the mental activity brings when there is a narrative along with it."

"Yoga is becoming a trendy thing and oddly, there is a kind of resurgence of D & D among the hipster crowd," he said. "It's more of a cross-over of two communities."

Fantasy games occupy a world in which there is a "nerd hierarchy" – from video games being the least nerdy at the top, followed by computer games, board games, role playing and at the bottom, live-action role playing or "LARPING," according to Terry Nicol, an inveterate role-player from Philadelphia.

"Whatever activity you are involved in is nerdy, but cool. However, anything below you is impossibly nerdy," said Nicol, a 32-year-old father. "I would put yoga gaming below LARPing. So as a board gamer currently, everything in the list after board games is for serious mom's-basement-residing-nerds. I'm not really qualified to discuss such truly nerdy things."

Indiana came up with the idea while at an ashram in upstate New York during a yoga class with guided meditation. "You close your eyes and someone guides you to imagine different things," he said. "After a while, I thought about making it more interactive."

But Alexander James, a 32-year-old former Middle Earth role-player from New York City, said the yoga version of D&D is "definitely very strange."

"This is ridiculous," said James, on full disclosure, this reporter's son. "How is no one cracking up while they're doing this? They're really just doing yoga while the dungeon master tells a story. Role playing is all about creativity and each individual player charting his own course through an adventure. It seems quite contradictory to have everyone doing exactly the same thing."